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  • Writer's pictureRich Sprague

You have questions ... we have answers... about deep dental cleanings.

Deep dental cleaning

Q1 - What is a deep dental cleaning?

Q2 - When is a deep dental cleaning indicated or required?

Q3 - How long does it take?

Q4 - How is a deep dental cleaning performed?

Q5 - What are the benefits of a deep dental cleaning?

Q6 - What are the risks if I need a deep dental cleaning and choose to decline treatment?

Q7 - What happens next?

Q1 - What is a deep dental cleaning?

It is a process, often called scaling and root planing, which removes hardened materials (tartar or plaque) that have adhered to your teeth. Remember, much of a tooth is hidden by your gums. If you can see build up on the exposed teeth, it's almost assured that you have build up below the gum lines. Left untreated, or removed, you are susceptible to periodontitis or gum disease.

Believe it or not, close to half of Americans over 30 have some form of periodontitis and as one gets older the risks increase. Nearly 3 out of 4 adults over 65 have some form of gum disease.

Q2 - When is a deep cleaning indicated or required?

The obvious answer is when someone hasn’t taken care of their mouth … 

Teeth with periodontitis (gum disease).
Teeth with periodontitis (gum disease).

Also, when one gets older as plaque builds up over time.

Q3 - How long does it take for a deep cleaning?

It depends on the severity of the problem. The teeth are divided into 4 quadrants (upper and lower, left and right). We are only allowed to tackle 2 quadrants in a single visit as a deep cleaning procedure takes around an hour. A more difficult deep cleaning could take up to an hour per quadrant. The area cleaned will be sore and tender following the procedure for a day or two. And we can’t have a whole mouth sore for this type of service.

Q4 - How is a deep cleaning performed?

There are 7 steps involved in the actual cleaning process. Once complete, your dentist will review the images, your mouth, discuss the cleaning process with the dental hygienist, and advise you of what additional remedial action, if any, is advised.

Step 1 - We will numb the quadrants with a topical and lidocaine injection to help you be comfortable and pain-free during the cleaning.

Step 2 - Using our latest technology, the Pearl system ... Computer Vision Technology (see more about Pearl here), we take x-rays and scans of your mouth. These allow the hygienist and dentist to evaluate the amount of calculus build up, any bone loss, and areas of potential decay (cavities), tooth infections, and issues with your teeth roots. Calculus, also known as plaque or tartar, can eat away at the bones and dental surface, and can lead to gum disease.

a full set of dental x-rays
This is a full set of x-rays, including a couple of close ups using the scan wand.

In these enhanced Pearl-generated images, the pink areas indicate tooth decay (cavities). The left photo shows decay underneath an existing crown. In the right photo, there is tooth decay below an existing filling. Without the Pearl technology, we would be unable to see many of these problems and treat them before more extensive treatments are required, like a root canal or loss of the tooth.

Step 3 - This is called a periodontal evaluation. Periodontitis is gum disease which can lead to more serious health problems in your mouth and throughout your body from your head to all your internal organs.

Periodontal evaluation chart.
Periodontal evaluation chart.

The hygienist measures the pocket depth of your gums and checks for easy bleeding of the gums and inflammation. Numbers of gum depth (or pockets) are recorded by teeth and our software prepares a chart based on the values the hygienist inputs. Smaller numbers are always better. Pockets deeper than 5 mil. raise serious cause for concern. 

Step 4 - The hygienist evaluates the chart and x-rays which gives an idea of how and what to focus on for the deep cleaning.

Step 5 - The actual cleaning begins. The hygienist uses an ultrasonic tool on each tooth and reaches deep below the gum line … the vibration from the tool actually breaks away the deposits. Water and suction is used to rinse away and remove the pieces.

Ultrasonic tooth scaler

Step 6 - Hand scales are then used to further remove remaining plaque remnants from each tooth.

Hand tooth scaler

Step 7 - Your teeth are polished and are irrigated with an antibiotic solution to help prevent infection and to promote healing. Laser therapy may be indicated and you may, at some point decide, that it is time to have a professional teeth whitening … especially if the teeth in the front of your mouth are badly strained.

Teeth polishing

Q5  - What are the risks and benefits of a deep cleaning?

Simply, the benefits can help you from losing gum tissue, teeth and bone. And it can help cure or prevent periodontitis and a host of more serious health problems.

Your mouth will feel better, too, without all that nasty plaque on your teeth and irritating your gums.

Make sure and discuss with your dentist any health issues before you have a deep cleaning, especially if you have certain heart conditions. It may be necessary for you to take antibiotics before your deep cleanings.

Q6 - What are the risks if I need a deep dental cleaning and choose to decline treatment?

The opposite of the benefits. You are encouraged to listen to our advice as we are looking out for your best interests.

Q7 - What happens next?

For those where a deep cleaning has been indicated, we recommend that you no longer use OTC toothpastes and use a prescription toothpaste which you can purchase from us. We will also encourage you to use a prescription mouthwash which we also have available.

Since your mouth may be sore for a day or two, you should avoid food and beverages (and smoking/vaping) which will irritate your gums. I.e. food should be temperate and soft. For pain, use an OTC pain reliever and antibiotics when prescribed by your dentists.

Be extremely careful when chewing, as your lips may still be swollen from the lidocaine for a few hours.

You may need additional appointments to correct any issues discovered during the cleaning process.

Most important:

  1. Follow the hygienist’s/dentist’s advice to the letter.

  2. Start taking care of your teeth.

  3. Don’t put off your 6-month routine dental check up and exam.

We have two convenient locations to provide the dental needs for you and your family. In Oxnard, call (805) 983-0717. For Spanish Hills Dentistry in Camarillo, call (805) 987-1711.

Author, Marketing Consultant, Web & Graphic Designer Rich Sprague


Rich is our Marketing Services Manager. He’s responsible for our business rebrand, including the design of our new logo, the production of our marketing materials, and the development of our new website. He is extremely passionate towards the complete marketing and sales process. In addition to his Master’s Degree in Web Design & New Media, he has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and has been writing articles since high school. Rich's email is

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